Interview with Ben Hollingsworth

Ben plays Dr Mario Savetti, a resident who grew up in poverty and sees emergency medicine as his only way out.

Ben Hollingsworth as Dr Mario Savetti

We hear you've become a dad?

I'm a two month old dad and it's changed my life, absolutely. It's one of those clubs that everyone talks about and I just didn't get it, even when my wife was pregnant. And then it's something that just happens. Now that I've spent so much time around doctors, learnt their language, it's also an eye-opening thing, about how wonderful it is to be in that world - the joy and care that these people provide is always, I think, understated in our society. To see this first-hand is phenomenal - and also kind of scary because looking at the monitor, looking at the heart rate and everything, I know what this means now, so it's a double-edged sword.

When he came out I got to catch the baby so I was the first person to touch him. His name's Hemingway. It just broke me, and I'm forever changed. My heart's doubled in size.

Are you suffering from lack of sleep?

I am, but the cure for it is to see my baby smile. You work through the tiredness and the adrenaline gets you through. I talk to a lot of ER docs, do a lot of shadowing - just this week I was down at LA County and met a Doctor who is essentially Rob Lowe's character in real life. Going down there is so important, to find that authenticity.

What's it like when you go into the real trauma unit?

These ER docs are adrenaline junkies and definitely Mario is one. He goes from being a junkie in real life.

[Shows tattoos). These aren't real. They're Mario's tattoos. We put them on every day. He comes from that kind of background.]

He switched from doing hard drugs to doing ER medicine and giving help to those people who have also been in that state. In the second season you see Mario coming face to face with his dad. His relationship with his parents was horrible, he had nothing, had to fight for everything. So I think the reason Mario does medicine is to return that care to those kind of people because he never got it. There's something therapeutical but also something very prickly. You see he has moments in the first season where he turns on people very quickly, his bedside manner is horrible, he wasn't nurtured growing up so he's learning, becoming a pack animal, so he can do it for others.

How far into the second season does Eric Robertson show up as your dad?

The second episode. He's so joyful, it's such a pleasure to go up against him as an actor, he has so many credits because he loves working. It was great because of the complex father/son relationship, I easily tapped into the emotional core of that relationship which I wouldn't necessarily have had this time last year so it's been a gift to play this storyline out. It's a really fun arc, and it'll show another side of Mario.

Do you have a (medical) speciality?

Mario's manners might not be great, he might overlook some cases, but when it comes to practical medicine .... compressions, I've got all that figured out, that's pretty easy, but the suturing, the central lines, intubations, I've made it my job to go and learn all of it. I think I do a running stitch better than anyone else on set. You have a hundred people around you, moving at lightning speed, you have to be doing something with your hands that's very intricate and at the same time developing relationships with all of them, on seventeen takes at different angles. I would stitch and rehearse my lines, it's become very handy to do a quick stitch. Saves a trip to the tailor's before an event!

I'm Canadian. My great grandfather was a surgeon during the First World War and my grandmother was a nurse in the Second World War. He was the first on the scene at the Halifax explosion, when the ship blew up in the harbour and 1500 people died. He had a journal, wrote that he pronounced 250 people dead in one day. As an actor there's a bit of you that has to step up and honour these people, what they do is special. These people are super heroes, they don't wear capes, they wear scrubs, our job is to show that the best we can, at least that's my responsibility, to show it as authentically as possible.

Is that what separates this show from previous shows?

Yes. We're invested, each episode gets so emotional, showing more about a service that in this day and age becomes more scientific - we're all about machines, and it becomes removed (from emotions), but at the base level this is a trauma unit. They have nothing to hide behind. They're working with their hands. The immediacy in a trauma centre is like nothing else, that's where the emotional connection comes from.

Do you all let off steam afterwards as a cast, like doctors do?

You go and lie down and it's like after a big concert or something. Rob Lowe has added a new fun element. There are moments of light relief, he has this wonderful ability to dip in and out of humour, it's his thing, the Rob Lowe look! It's a really important device, to show we're not taking ourselves too seriously. There's a bit of clowning in it too, that's an important part of medicine.

Like Rob Lowe you started acting at a young age. Do you think you have something in common there?

Yes but I didn't get into film and TV, go to Hollywood until I was eighteen because I felt it was really important to get that tool belt of theatre training, for longevity. I want to age gracefully into that. It was a very conscious decision to take time out to do that.

Is that a conscious decision a young actor has to make when they work with iconic people, to say I'm not going to be intimidated?

One of the first big films I did was The Jones's with Demi Moore and David Duchovny. I'd just got out of theatre school knowing that as a group you are there to tell a story. I entered in very naively and the director took me to one side and scolded me but I pushed back. I think you have to have a unified voice as an ensemble because you are all telling the story as a whole, you have these big people coming in, but you have to tap into your own unique voice.

Do you still get star-struck?

Of course! The first time you meet them you think they're going to be way bigger - oh, you're not 35 feet tall! - and then once you get over that you know they're wonderful people who are lit up with wonderful energy that we're all attracted to.

So you all get on?

Yes! There's no room not to get along in there.

Harry (who plays Angus) and I are best friends in real life. That usually translates. We push each other. He's another guy who comes from theatre training so we have the same language which is important when trying to tell a story.

Will you do more seasons?

Absolutely, every day is a new joy here. It's a playground for stories.